For-Profit Colleges to Comment on Aid Rule at November Meetings

The U.S. Department of Education scheduled meetings Nov. 4 and 5 to hear education companies and advocacy groups comment on a proposed rule that would tie for- profit colleges’ eligibility for student aid to their loan repayment track records.

Company and group representatives will be allowed five minutes to speak on issues they have already raised in written comments to the department, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said today in a notice in the Federal Register.

The Education Department delayed final publication of the so-called gainful employment rule after receiving more than 90,000 comments, fueled in part by letter-writing campaigns at for-profit colleges. The rule would link eligibility for federal student aid to graduates’ success in getting jobs and repaying loans.

“The response from so many individuals and entities demonstrates how important the issues relating to gainful employment and this rulemaking are,” the department said in the notice.

Apollo Group Inc., the biggest U.S. for-profit college by enrollment and operator of the University of Phoenix, said the regulatory environment was among the reasons the company withdrew its fiscal 2011 forecast Oct. 13. Apollo’s move sent the company’s shares down 23 percent and rippled through the sector. An index of 12 education stocks lost 18 percent yesterday.

Groups that want to present at the meetings must register and, in the event of a large number of registrants, the department may randomly select some representatives to comment, the notice said. Apollo officials don’t yet know whether they’ll be selected, said Manny Rivera, a company spokesman.

Apollo fell $1.42, or 3.7 percent, to $36.58 at 4 p.m. New York time today in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. The Phoenix-based company has declined 51 percent in the past 12 months.


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